Toenail anatomy is a funny thing, and it can be alarming when our nails don’t look quite right. Toenail thickening is an unsightly occurrence that affects your nail health and overall foot health. Factors like aging can cause it, but thick toenails are also directly linked to trauma and certain foot conditions and fungal infections, like fungal toenails.
If you notice bizarre toenail thickness, you should seek treatment and guidance from your foot specialist. But learning the potential causes will also give you some much-needed insight. Today’s article will tackle what you need to know about toenail thickening.
Causes of Toenail Thickening
Thick toenails are not usually a sign of something sinister. However, in some cases, they can become painful if you ignore them. They could also potentially be a sign of a chronic illness. Here are some of the most common causes of toenail thickening:
Fungal Nail Infections
The University of Michigan notes that toenail thickening can occur when you contract a contagious infection caused by a group of fungi called Dermatophytes — the same fungi that cause athlete’s foot. Toenails may also appear “crumbly,” misshapen, brittle and have a yellow-green tint.
The National Library of Medicine explains that thickening is a common nail alteration in the elderly. The New York Times attributes this to a drastic decrease in nail growth rates in older people. As a result, nail cells called onychocytes start to pile up. This happens much more often in toenails than in fingernails.
Trauma and Injury
When trauma disrupts and damages the toenail bed and nail matrix, it can lead to abnormal nail growth. Trauma to the toenail can result from various causes, such as stubbing or jamming your toe, dropping a heavy object on it, or repetitive pressure from ill-fitting footwear.
Psoriasis nails are one of the many symptoms people with this condition must deal with. People with this illness are also more vulnerable to fungal infections. Moreover, genetic and immune system factors can affect nail health.
On their own, ingrown toenails do not cause thickness. However, untreated ingrown nails are vulnerable to infection the more they grow and pierce the skin. This can cause subsequent inflammation and toenail damage that disrupts the nail environment and causes cell build-up.
Managing Toenail Thickening
Treating thick toenails involves matching the cause to the appropriate plan of action.
If you have toenail fungus, you will likely need prescription anti-fungal pills or ointment. You may also be able to use anti-fungal creams or powders. It is very important to see a chiropodist for treatment if you have toenail fungus, as toenail fungus is notoriously stubborn and persistent and rarely an be treated without seeing a foot specialist.
But practicing vigilant foot care to make sure a fungal infection doesn’t become a chronic problem is equally important. Always make sure you wear shoes in contagious spaces like public pools and showers, avoid sharing socks, shoes and nail clippers, keep your feet clean and dry, and wear breathable footwear.
If toenail trauma is your issue, you should protect your toenail while your injury heals. Trim it carefully or seek help from a chiropodist if it’s too difficult. Be sure to practice foot hygiene at the same time. As your injury heals, the nail should gradually return to normal thickness with time.
If your toenails are thickening due to aging, simply practicing nail care and buffing and smoothing the rough surfaces can help you manage them.
In severe cases where chronic illness and pain is present, you may need injections or a minor surgery to remove your thick toenail.